An amazing production. You will not soon forget – if ever – the emotional impact of the extraordinary minimalist and daring re-imagining of Tennessee Williams’ iconic and tragic, somewhat autobiographical, beautifully written memory play THE GLASS MENAGERIE first produced in 1944.
Making history once again is the creative team of ONCE helmed by John Tiffany. A team that brings a new dreamlike, dance like aura to the text.
The set by Bob Crowley is stark and striking with its fire escape ladders stretching up into the sky. Its lone gramophone and single glass Unicorn and magical sofa with a screen, a table and chairs atop a glimmering black reflective lake (better seen from above) set the abstract mood immediately. Its visual impact as strong as what is to follow.
Mr. Tiffany has coached his actors down to the last detail and they take their time setting up the rhythm that accelerates to an emotional draining ending that stuns.
The troubled Wingfield clan is helmed by the extremely talkative Amanda (the masterful Cherry Jones) a mother caught up in her own Southern belle past and concern for her future as well as for her son Tom (the charismatic Zachary Quinto) who longs to write and escape from his overbearing and smothering mother. A mother who berates the way he eats and slouches and his cowlick and drinking habits. Who censors his books and who questions him about his penchant for going to the movies all the time.
There is his extremely shy and disabled sister Laura (a remarkable Celia Keenan-Bolger) who in a brilliant touch enters through the sofa appearing as an apparition to Tom sitting beside him as he narrates his story.
Her memories of the star athlete and actor from High School that bring a relaxed smile to her otherwise strained face. A face that looks out with dead eyes insulated in a world of her creation – a world of small, fragile glass animals.
Mr. Tiffany captures through his actors the torment and desperation that they feel that could be yesterday, today or tomorrow and has them delve deeply into their psyches to create original performances of these well known characters.
You will never forget the bravura performance of Cherry Jones. Nor her clarion “rise and shine” from off stage that sends shudders throughout the audience. Nor her fury that brings her son and she to almost physical harm. Nor her relentless insistence that Laura receive a “Gentleman Caller” to insure that she will be taken care of. Persistence pays off as indeed one shows up.
A co-worker of Tom at the factory who has a bit better position. A High School buddy. The very same guy Laura had a crush on. Irishman, Jim O’Connor (a brilliant Brian J. Smith) who strains with his discomfort when meeting Amada; who slowly connects with the bashful Laura regaining her confidence as he tries to build up her confidence as we see beneath his public speaking class exterior that he too has insecurities that could include his relationship with Tom. You will be mesmerized by Laura and Jim’s candle lit scene that gives her some short lived hope.
The lighting by Natasha Katz, music by Nico Muhly and movement by Steven Hoggett add extra layers of theatrical magic to the overall stylized production that originated at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University and should absolutely be seen at the Booth Theatre ONLY through February 23rd.
www.theglassmenageriebroadway.com Photos: Michael J. Lutch
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